Young couples have lots of “firsts” to look forward to: moving in together, buying a home, getting married, and having children. With all this excitement it is easy to forget the elephant in the room—having an estate plan in place. Young couples often feel invincible and do not want to have to think about all the “what-ifs” of becoming injured or passing away, leaving their children to grow up without them. But that is what estate planning lawyers are for…to protect you from all the “what-ifs” that life may bring.
It is important for young couples to have estate planning documents prepared and ready to go just in case those “what ifs” were to become a reality, god forbid. The estate planning documents needed at a minimum would be a Will, listing who the Guardian of the children would be in the event both parents pass away simultaneously, a durable power of attorney document, and the designated healthcare documents (Advanced Directive, Healthcare Surrogate, and HIPAA Authorization). As assets accumulate and grow, setting up a Trust would be the next step to secure financial protection—to avoid the probate process and ensure your legacy is passed down to your beneficiaries in a protected manner.
Typically, in the Will, most married couples leave all their assets to each other first, then to their children. The children would access the monies in the estate when they are no longer a minor. The children would receive any assets regardless of their financial maturity and ability to handle money. That is one reason setting up a Trust could be beneficial. The money could be distributed to the children once they attain a certain age such as 21, 25, 30, etc., preventing a child that is not financially mature to inherit such a sum of money in an outright manner.
Planning who the Guardian would be ahead of time allows the couple to put thoughtful consideration in who they trust to raise their children. They should take into account the maturity of the Guardian and the location and proximity to the children’s current place of residence. Religious beliefs, morals, and financial situation can also be factors. Parents should name the same guardian in each of their Wills so there is no confusion and make sure the people they have selected would be willing to fill those roles if necessary.